溝通的建築:香港霓虹招牌的視覺語言

Neon sign of Goldfinch Restaurant

為香港M+視覺文化博物館《探索霓虹》網上展覽撰寫了一篇關於香港本土霓虹光管招牌的長文,題為〈溝通的建築:香港霓虹招牌的視覺語言〉。文中為香港的地道招牌視覺文化溯源,涉及建築、城市景觀、字體、製作過程等,並闡述一套關於香港招牌景觀的分析架構,圖文並茂。冀能拋磚引玉,為研究、保育、和傳承具香港本土特色招牌發揮開導之效。

Just wrote an essay on Hong Kong’s neon signs for M+, Hong Kong’s museum of visual culture. Titled Architecture of communication: the visual language of Hong Kong’s neon signs, the essay traces the influences and development of neon signs in Hong Kong, exploring their connections with architecture, urban design, typography as well as production processes. It also introduces a typology of Hong Kong’s signscape, and profusely illustrated. I hope that this essay will spark an interest on the study, preservation and continuation of this unique part of Hong Kong’s visual culture.

有說要知某城市有多繁榮富庶,且看她入夜後有多光亮。到過香港的遊客,壯麗的夜景必定在心中留下深刻印記。自五十年代起,「東方之珠」這稱謂就成為了香港的同義詞。生動活潑的霓虹招牌,令人聯想起種種浪漫情懷,是「東方之珠」稱號的代表符號。霓虹招牌勾勒出香港的街道和社區,為城市注入動力。夜幕低垂,充滿生氣。

文字和視覺符號無處不在,滲透香港每個角落,慰為奇觀。大量的中英文視覺信息,偌大規模,風格迥異,五光十色,以不同物料製作、不同潮流展現,揭示了此地的能量與精神。這些符號代表了我們的身份和美學氣質,也可窺見人們在這地球一隅的生活方式與文化。這就是香港。

霓虹招牌的製造技術早在上世紀三十年代引入香港,但直到了二戰後,香港經濟快速復甦,霓虹招牌才得以茁壯成長。霓虹招牌是推廣各種商業活動的不二之選,大量用於各行各業如餐廳、百貨公司、戲院、酒吧、夜總會、桑拿浴場等。具有強大消費力和閒暇時間的客戶層不斷增長,商戶間的競爭越演越烈。霓虹招牌不但成為商家宣傳業務的必爭之地,也成為香港經濟與旅遊業發展的有力象徵。

It is sometimes said that the wealth and prosperity of a city can be measured by how bright it is after dusk. Ask any tourist who has been to Hong Kong, and they will recall memories of the spectacular night view. ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ is a term that has been synonymous with Hong Kong since at least the 1950s. The romanticism associated with this title of endearment is no doubt symbolised by Hong Kong’s eclectic and vibrant neon signs. They line Hong Kong’s major thoroughfares and neighbourhoods, making the city come to life especially after dark.

Written words and visual symbols are all around us, and in Hong Kong they permeate every corner of the city. Visual messages rendered in Chinese and English, manifested in a plethora of scales, stylistic variations, colours, arrangements, materials and degrees of transience, display our city’s energy and spirit. They represent who we are as a people, our aesthetic temperament and the kind of life that we lead in this particular corner of the globe that is Hong Kong.

The technology of making neon signs was introduced to Hong Kong in the early 1930s. The burgeoning growth of neon signs, however, took place after the Second World War when Hong Kong was in a period of rapid economic regeneration. Neon was a perfect medium to advertise all kinds of economic activities, from restaurants, department stores and movie theatres to bars, nightclubs and saunas. Neon signs not only provided a solution to the increasingly keen competition for an ever-growing customer base with more disposable income and leisure time, but they were also a potent symbol of Hong Kong as an emerging economy and attractive tourist destination.

Categories calligraphy, lettering, signage
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